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Illegal avocado plantation in Mexican Monarch Butterfly reserve

This Wednesday Mexican environmental inspectors found a three hectares illegal avocado plantation in the Monarch Butterfly wintering grounds west of Mexico City. The Monarch area is a protected nature reserve.

Monarch butterflies migrate from the US and Canada to pine and fir forests that thrive at about the same altitude as prime avocado-growing land. Previously, deforestation linked to avocado planting had been seen in areas to the west and south of the reserve.

In April 2017, police found that a 37-hectares swath of pine trees had been cut down in the nature reserve of Valle de Bravo (to the east of the butterfly reserve) to plant avocado trees. Without pine trees to provide thermal cover, the butterflies can freeze to death.

Previously, experts estimated that Michoacan -the state where part of the reserve is located, and the biggest avocado-producing state in Mexico- loses about 6,000 to 8,000 hectares of forest land annually to avocado plantations. reported that while avocado prices have dropped from last year’s higher levels, they are much more lucrative than almost any other legal crop Mexican farmers can grow. That is why many landholders appear to be turning to avocados, legally or illegally.

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